Are you true to your values at work?

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Staying true to your values at work

To celebrate diversity week, we’re hosting ED&I (equality, diversity and inclusion) events and speakers across Nationwide over the next five days. Here we invite guest speaker Reverend Andy Marshall to share his story.

About Reverend Andy Marshall

I was born in Zimbabwe, and grew up in South Africa. I became a Christian in the Anglican church at the age of 17, and felt called to ministry soon thereafter. What brought me to faith was the message of unconditional love and the strong sense of community and love I saw. I worked first as a missionary youth worker, in both extremely wealthy and impoverished communities, with children from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds.

After that, I worked as a Youth Pastor in my home town for a number of years, and was then proposed for ordination to the priesthood, and my theological and ministry training began. I served my curacy in a culturally diverse suburban parish, and then worked in a large suburban parish, before moving to the UK in 2002. In the UK, I’ve been a parish priest, and am currently a university chaplain.

“ I had known from a young age that I was gay, and I gradually became aware that homosexuality was frowned upon in my newfound faith, but I prayed it was a phase. ”

After years of struggling in secret, something called “reparative therapy” came to town. Finally, someone was not only speaking about homosexuality in a faith context, but also offered healing. I attended weekly sessions on that reparative therapy course for a period of 2 years, and also went to see a Christian Counsellor every week.

Those who have survived reparative therapy will know how damaging and dangerous it is … I was told that my identity was broken, and that I had to gradually strip away my identity and relearn a new identity, using their teaching. At the same time, the counsellor blamed my family, and told me that I should cut ties with them. For two years I stripped away at my identity without the support of my family, and desperately prayed for healing.

It couldn’t continue; I had become unhealthily obsessed with death, believing it would be my only release, and struggled with suicidal ideation for 2 years. At my worst point, a fellow priest found out I was gay, and began spreading rumours about me around the community and church, and eventually got me kicked out of the parish.

“ Thankfully, whether by coincidence or divine intervention, I was given the opportunity to come to the UK and, for the first time, I met Christians who were LGBT affirming. I embraced again the message of acceptance and inclusion that brought me to faith. ”

At last I was practicing my faith with integrity as a gay man; bringing all of me my gifts and talents to my role, and the change was profound. I believe that God’s gifts are given to all, for all, and all of us are created equal, are equally loved, and we each have something special to bring to the body as a whole.

I finally allowed myself to believe in the potential for love and in 2008 I met Mike and we started dating. He proposed in a hot air balloon over Marrakech in 2011, and in 2012 we entered into our Civil Partnership.

Since moving to the UK I have become increasingly involved in LGBT+ advocacy in society and the Church, was a vocal supporter of the Equal Marriage campaign (and pray to see this in our churches someday). The number of LGBT people, groups and allies in our churches is growing. They’re working hard for full equality, and doing some good solid theology to support this work. The more we make people aware of the inclusive voices in our churches, the louder the message of inclusion becomes.

Why it takes faith to stay true to your beliefs

I can’t explain why, in those early days where I was being bullied by my superiors and going through conversion therapy, I didn’t leave the church. Many do. I realised that, for me, my faith was too important to walk away from. It, too, had become an integral part of my identity. I didn’t want anybody to take that away from me, and I realised that their struggle with my identity and faith was exactly that – it was their struggle.

That takes courage, though, because you end up with plenty of people trying to make you feel shame for being gay, and you end up with others trying to make you feel shame for being Christian.

“ I reached the point where I decided that I was both gay and Christian, and that I wouldn’t be made to feel apologetic about either of those things, and that – to live with integrity – I would be honest and unashamed of either.I had come to faith because of the message of unconditional love and acceptance, and that was the faith I would cling to. ”

What else can we do help build shared values and beliefs?

I think it’s about getting to know people. People of scared of what and who they don’t know, and barriers are broken down by getting to know people; find out about others values and beliefs, asking open, honest and respectful questions, and learn to share about your values and beliefs in a way which doesn’t undermine those of others.
Share meals and experiences, and honour who the other person is, even if they differ from you.

Find out more

I’ll end this article with a tiny selection of the organisations, but there are others; Baptist, Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical and Catholic groups … the list is long. Take a look at them, sign up for updates, and look for us under the banner of “Christians at Pride” at the next Pride march you’re at and get involved if you can!

One Body One Faith - campaigning together for the changes that we need to see for LGBTI+ people to fully embraced and for their gifts and contributions to the life and mission of the church in England to be fully realised. 
One Body One Faith also keeps a list of congregations and spaces that are LGBT inclusive.

Two:23 an evangelical Christian with a LGBT inclusive ministry. 

Diverse Church is a supportive community of young LGBT+ Christians in UK evangelical churches. They aim to be a pastoral/mission resource for the wider church.

Inclusive Church working for a church that is welcoming and open to all, and also holds a directory of inclusive churches nationwide.

Bless you all!

Networks at Nationwide

To find out more about ED&I at Nationwide, see our Networks page or join in on twitter via @NBSEmployees using #NBSDiversity.